Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper is desperate for his team to be the ones to break Australia’s trans-Tasman drought, and he’s called on Will Skelton to bring the muscle required.
The Waratahs were the last Australian team to beat a Kiwi opponent, a 45-25 win over the Chiefs in round 14 last year, with 17 New Zealand defeats following across the Australian conference.
While the overall statistics are dire, it’s the road trips that paint the bleakest picture, with the Waratahs also claiming the most recent victory in New Zealand, their 2015 win over the Hurricanes.
Since that night just shy of two years ago, 14 Australian teams have gone across the ditch and come back winless, including a clean sweep in 2016.
Hooper said the statistics weren’t playing on the team’s mind and there was no question that the Waratahs wanted to bring some joy to Australian rugby after their 2-4 start to the year.
“(The record) almost gets you more enthusiastic because obviously you want to be the team that breaks it,” he said.
“We've only played one Kiwi team this year other than trials and we have a second shot at it this weekend, so (we are) super keen to notch that up and be the team that does it.
“They’ve got a really strong game plan and their basic skills are second to none really at the moment. I guess where we sit, that's behind them,” he said.
“We’ve spoken over the last 18-24 months about working on those basic skills so in all conditions you're more consistent. That's what the Kiwi teams probably bring is that great consistency.”
That 2015 win in Wellington was driven by their forwards and Hooper said the departing Will Skelton would need to be the man to strike fear into the Hurricanes’ hearts.
“He's such a big guy - to move that body around, I know is hard and taxing every time he gets an involvement opportunity to make a difference on the game,” he said.
“I think for him knowing that he's playing 50-60 minutes, maximising the amount of positive involvements on the game's key for him.
“I know he wants to get it right, he doesn't want to be wasting his opportunities to make an impact but he's still a young player.”
The Waratahs flew to Wellington on Thursday morning ahead of Friday’s clash with the Hurricanes, their last before a bye week.
The Waratahs play the Hurricanes on Friday night, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS.